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First 3Years After Retirement

We bought a new house, 3240 Squaw Valley Drive - in a new brand new subdivision - Vista Grande Terrace to the east of Academy Boulevard in north central Colorado Springs January of 1973.

There didn't seem to be any reason why we shouldn't live in the growing - eastward - Colorado Springs. While, theoretically, I could have bid on the old Hughes mansion on Wood Avenue which went for something like $80,000 after Aunt Arleen died, there was no way I could afford its upkeep on a retired Colonel's pay. And it was not clear yet how I could make a living at something beyond that retirement pay. Real Estate? Management? Defense related industries?

The property indeed had a 'grand vista' looking toward Pikes Peak to the West, which was accentuated by a steep drop to the south as an unsodded yard, on a very large lot. It, and the houses on both sides sat on the brow of that same steep slope, which gave us an unobstructed view to the south and west. But that same unsodded yard was a huge problem. For the ground sloped so steeply it was not clear what it would take, or how much it would cost to landscape it. Never having had a 'green thumb' it was not likely I would undertake to do the landscaping myself. And I was beginning already to feel the pinch of retirement-only income.Which was 55% of my active duty pay, less allowances for housing.

The house, with its inside garage, was two stories, with three small bedrooms had 1,700 square feet of living space.

It was very typical 1970's suburbia. I was somewhat encouraged in the choice, because the architect who designed the entire subdivision lived inside it - in fact next door. So it must be livible.

The purchase was under my VA loan guarantee. So as I recall we paid 8% interest on the 30 year mortgage loan. As I recall the price was only about $45,000.

Of course being true suburbia, we had to drive everywhere. Patsy still wanted to shop for groceries at the Fort Carson Commissary. It was pretty simple to just drive south down Academy Boulevard then run into the short highway link to Carson's back gate. And one had to drive to the closest shopping areas - no walking. And streets too steep to use bicycles.

David, Fountain Valley, and West Point

We were still financially supporting David III, at Fountain Valley. He graduated from Fountain Valley May, 1972.

He had taken an interest, even while we were still at Fort Carson, in going to West Point. Fountain Valley had been, as I hoped, as good a 'prep' school as any for any college, 

While in normal times there is lots of competition for admission to West Point, as I had surmised the effects of the Vietnam War were being felt, the numbers of boys wanting to go to West Point dropped. I was able, under a 'Military Dependent's' quota to get him an appointment to the Academy - and not try for a Congressional appointment. His record at Fountain Valley School was high enough for West Point to give him a good look as a candidate. Even West Point was beginning to scramble for good applicants. 

Of course he would have to pass a physical, and I knew that he had really strained one of his knees playing 'Team Handball' while at Fort Carson. A sport pushed by General Gleszer and seldom seen beyond the US Military.

And I was right. He was told he would have to strengthen that knee before he could possibly pass the physical.

So he missed that year's admission schedule (1973) but he decided to work on his knee and press to get admitted, backed by his excellent Athletic/Sports abilities displayed at Fountain Valley. The West Point Lacross Coaching staff was interested.

So he got an appointment on his own, and his knee passed musters.

But as I feared, in spite of the fact that West Point would give him an excellent free education, he would join an Army already in Post Vietnam War shambles. I was really ambivalent about what he would run into as a junior officer in a broken Army. It was very unlikely he would serve in a War within his first 20 commissioned years. The US only goes to war about every 20 years. He would end up pushing pencils a lot of the time. And would probably resign his commission as soon as he could - after perhaps 5 obligatory years of commissioned service.

His Fort Carson friend, Mike Harwood, whose father was a Lieutenant Colonel in quarters close to ours, did go to West Point. And he graduated four years later. As David told me later, I was right, Mike pushed pencils in his military career.

The Army did not start recovering its essential strength and morale until the 1980s, and it did not show the ability to plan and train for as well as win the Nations Wars, supported by Congress and the American public, until the First Gulf War, Desert Storm, in 1991. Fifteen years after graduation. Too long to make a career based on a good combat record. So many disillusioned grads I know, bailed as soon as they could after graduating between 1977 and 1990.

So David, just weeks before he would have had to decide to go, declined the appointment. He determined, instead, to go to Colorado College, and become immersed in the Liberal Arts and Theater, for which both Fountain Valley and Colorado College were famous

                               David, Colorado College and the Arts

This is the way he remembers it, in his own words:

"I tore up a knee when I was asked to participate in a workout for the Olympic Team's demonstration sport, Team Handball, while at Ft. Carson. 

This Olympic Team was at Ft. Carson and the coach of the youth team that I played on recommended that they would want to look at me as a potential player for their team, even though it was a demonstration

Sport at the time in the Olympics.   I was called and invited to work out with them.  I did at the Main Field House at Ft. Carson (which is still there, and is the one where all the returning soldiers march in to when returning from deployments and is what we see on TV.

Anyway, I took a shot and instead of rolling into the shot, I stopped myself and my knee hyperextended.  It was bad.  Over the next few weeks it started to shift and give out.  A trick knee.  A girlfriend at the time suggested that maybe I could try dance to strengthen it.  At first I was NO WAY.  But it was in bad shape, and after visits to orthopedic surgeons at Evans at Ft. Carson and the AFA Hospitals, they all said I had a badly torn ACL and meniscus.  Not much to be done except try and rehab it.  Which I did by turning into a gym rat to strengthen it.

However, I finally did take the advice and went to a class at CC.  An adult class taught by Ursula Gray.  Her husband was a highly recognized philosophy instructor at CC.   I tried it with sweatpants and sports attire and was immediately struck by the fact that there were a lot of women in leotards and I was a 17 year old male, and the only male.  The numbers as well as the attire were pretty interesting.  So I went back. 

Encouraged by Ursula Gray as they always need male dancers.

I picked it up very fast.  This was fall and winter of 1972.  I also started taking ballet classes in addition to these modern classes with Norman Cornick at Colorado College.  Classes were free because I was a male.  Going towards the summer of 1972, Ursula Gray and Norman Cornick recommended that I was good enough to try the summer sessions with Hanya Holm.  She had been a staple at summer sessions at CC since the 30s. 

Hanya Holm was a world renowned modern dance teacher, choreographer, and had also choreographed major shows like Kiss Me Kate, My Fair Lady and Camelot on Broadway.  I was accepted to the summer session which was a bit of a coup since I started at an older age, and was also barely a year into the dance thing at all.

During this time I also worked with a Captain at Ft. Carson, a West Point grad, and secretly applied to West Point.  I ended up being accepted under a Presidential Nomination and separately, a AAA or Army Athletic Association scholarship.  The crazy part of all this was I was getting calls from Keating, the lacrosse coach and Cahill, the Army football coach, both of whom were recruiting me for their particular sports.  At one point Tom Cahill actually said when he learned I was vacillating between ballet and West Point, he would get ballet at WP as an extracurricular program under the auspices that if two cadets requested an activity, they could get it.  I learned later that was a ploy to get me to go because there was NO WAY someone would have time to fulfill all the requirements of West Point, and dance?!?!?  No way.

The other irony was that I rehabilitated by knee enough to where under known conditions, meaning recitative things like running, jumping, etc... the ballet and modern dance training fine-tuned my ability to run faster than I already could (I'd been clocked at 10.3 in the 100 in high school which is pretty swift), and I could jump.  Very high.  And was all around much quicker.  So when it came time to test out in the APFT (Army Physical Fitness Tests) and extended PT tests required for West Point and the Air Force Academy (I was getting calls from them too), I scored extremely high in all the physical tests.  It made me look supreme on paper.   I was basically off the charts in the scores.  The challenge was twofold... I was partly talked out of attending by You Know Who, indicating the next couple of decades would be a miserable time for a military career and in fact the example You Know Who (my father) used was that a West Point graduate at that time would likely end up as a tank captain behind some desk in Germany... and years later I learned Michael Harwood had gone to the academy and indeed ended up as a tank captain in Germany with little prospect for advancement.  The other challenge was while I had rehabbed my knee when doctors said I would likely be relegated to not being able to do sports again, I knew that it was also structurally damaged and a single hit on the knee was all it would take to ruin it.   Those two considerations eked the scales of me leaning towards, to leaning against attending.

Another crazy irony is for some numbskull reason, I had The Colonel's Social Security number mixed in my head, with mine.  I ended up applying to WP with his social security number, and got in.  Twice.  Under the Presidential nomination and the Triple A nomination.  I still have both acceptance letters.  So essentially, Dave Hughes has been accepted to WP three times, about 30 years apart.

I also started going to Denver to study with ballet teachers in Denver as well as in Colorado Springs.   A year later, I went to University of Denver for a year and continued to dance in their program as well as do other theatre stuff.  But funds ran out and I couldn't continue.   Came back, regrouped, then took off to NY with little money in my pocket.  

Fortunately had a place to stay on east 9th in The Village, compliments of someone who was stationed at Ft. Carson but when he got out, went to NYU for lighting design, and the time I was trying to get there, he was living with a girlfriend and said I could use the place which made it possible.  Long story very short... got down to $2 in my pocket, was looking for work, ended up going to a cattle call for a show... 600 people showed up.  It was the first audition I had ever gone to in my life.  Didn't have to before because being a male, you just got pulled into stuff with needing to audition.   So this was honestly the first audition I had ever gone to and it was a mass of people.  I had been in NY for 3 months and had been extremely lucky to get into a professional ballet class at the New York School of Ballet and was elevated to the pro level where I was able to enhance my skills very fast, though I did not really know how I would match up with people who had been doing it for years.

At the audition the cuts went from 600 down to 300, 200, then 125 the first day.  I was asked to come back.  I also started to sense I was able to keep up with other people.   Two days later went through another audition round and cuts went from 125 to 80, 40, then 18.  I was in the group of 18.  That is when they came and said we had "made it" and were cast.  The show was Brigadoon which was destined after a short tour, to Broadway.  This is true... that the first audition I ever had ended up in a Broadway show.   I had been auditioning for Agnes de Mille, of yes, the 'de Mille' fame.  She was very well known for her Broadway shows like Brigadoon, Oklahoma and so on...  this was a revival of Brigadoon.

A couple other side notes were... we were all then asked to sing.  I panicked because I had no idea one needed to come prepared to sing at a dance audition.  I had NO idea.  I went to the person running the auditions and said I didn't have anything prepared.  He laughed and saw I was crestfallen thinking I was now exposed and may as well pack up and go home.   He took me over to the piano player and they said they just wanted to see if any of us could sing and it was not a showstopper.  

The pianist said it was Agnes de Mille's birthday and that perhaps I could sing happy birthday.   I have since learned from real singers that happy  birthday is not that easy.  Anyway, I happen to have a big, excellent voice so when it came my turn, I walked up to her, about 8 feet away, and blew it up.  Her eyes got real wide and she turned to the director and assistants and said "my god, he can sing."  From that they ended up asking me to not only do the dance parts, but they asked me to learn and accompany the singers of the company too and ended up being  asked to sing on the musical album that was made from the performers.  

More importantly...  she then asked me to 'read'.

A second thing I was totally unprepared for. I ended up reading for the part of Harry Beaton.  At the beginning of the process, I was actually offered the role of Harry Beaton, a principal role.  Unfortunately shortly after that, John Curry, the Olympic ice skater was brought in to do the role, a star turn and audience draw, do I lost that principal role.  Still, after starting very late as a dancer, going to NY with scant funds, going to a first audition ever and grabbing a Broadway show was not a bad start."

end of David's memories.

David entered Colorado College in 1974. And graduated in 1977. But while there, the theatrical bent he had acquired at Fountain Valley, flourished. He started developing as a dancer - male ballet dancer. His well developed athletic skills, his handsome looks  and the skills he learned while there first of all saw him on Colorado Springs stages with the Symphony in the Nutcracker Suite in two years. By the time he graduated in 1977 he had decided to give Broadway a try, where he went by 1979.  

               David as Dancer in Colorado Springs

His mother, Patsy, was thrilled at his choices. She always supported what our children wanted to do in life, and given her own love of classical music she was delighted at what he was attempting to do with dance.

 

Then, in 1979 he was contacted for a movie part. Here is that story in the Gazette Telegraph newspaper

 

 

 

 

Rebecca

Rebecca, 3 years younger than David, attended at Patsy's behest, Immanual Lutheran School 1969 - 1971 while we were still at Fort Carson. Enough classmates from Fort Carson went there that the post offered a small school bus ride to and from the church-school near downtown Colorado Springs 15 miles away from the Post.

And then,  before and as we moved into the city she attended St Mary's Catholic High school, even though we were not Catholic, from 1971 to 1974. She was so high a spirit that she was always in trouble with the Nuns. She wanted to get those years over with it so bad she even graduated a year early. Only 3 years of High School rather than 4, for which the Nuns were undoubtedly grateful. 

She took a short fling at attending the relatively new University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, but she did not like it or the first professors she encountered.

So she attended El Paso Community College (now called Pikes Peak Community College), heading toward a law enforcement associate degree. But she finally decided she didn't want to be a policewoman either, and dropped out after two years.

Then she applied for and entered Colorado College, and I managed to pay for her for two years, 1980-81. She liked it, though it would not accept EPCC transfer credits, so she had to start over, which was a drag. I could not afford it anymore and she had to stop attending.

Much later, 1999-2000, after she had, partially having learned accounting via my new and very novel small 'personal' Radio Shack computers, and attending several classes  taught at Colorado Technical College she even had gotton some decent jobs doing accounting for small pet firms. She much later, more mature, took on a demanding 18 month study program at the University of Phoenix, Colorado Springs. She earned a Bachelor of Business Management degree. And graduated with cap and gown. That prepared her for later business management positions in Oakland and Seattle.

Edward

Younger yet Edward was sent to Pauline Memorial School, near the Broadmoor, also Catholic, during his 3d and 4th grades. He did not like it, for everyone else was Catholic except him. He was odd man out. 

Then when we lived on Squaw Valley Drive, he attended Fremont Elementary for his 5th and 6th grades. And Russell Junior High for his 7th and 8th grades. Both public schools.

After we moved to the Westside he attended West Junior High, then went to Coronado High School from which he graduated in 1981 before attending Quinniapac College back east.

So during the turbulant and 'everything goes' 60's,  Patsy, far more than I, was so worried about their moral upbringing that she insisted that they attend parochial schools.

As far as I can tell, it didn't hurt them, though it took years of maturing before David and Rebecca settled down.

The practical consequences while we still lived on Squaw Valley Drive on the East side of Colorado Springs, were issues of transportation to and from school. Edward had to walk, as he remembers, long uphills to both Fremont and Russell. The downside of Suburbia.

Meanwhile I had started up 'Enjoy Colorado' as an 'Information Store' , and volunteered for - launched actually - the Pikes Peak or Bust by '76 Centennial Committee after the City leaders had actually, for lack of leadership and a downturn in the economy gave up on doing ANY celebrating of Colorado's 100th and Americas 200th birthdays.

 

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